IN most villages, old phone boxes lie derelict and vandalised on street corners.
But for one Oxfordshire community, that phone box could now be the difference between life and death.
Long Wittenham has become the first village in the county to install a defibrillator in its old BT phone box.
It is in memory of 17-year-old Guy Evans, who lived in the village when he was killed in a motorbike accident in 2008 after his heart stopped.
His mum Beth Chesney-Evans, 58, said: “The reason we’re doing this is because we lost our son Guy from suspected sudden heart arrhythmia.
“I think the recent news about Fabrice Muamba has highlighted the importance of people knowing what to do when someone’s heart suddenly stops and they can’t breathe.
“Fabrice was so lucky that it happened where paramedics were on hand to give him CPR in those vital minutes after he stopped breathing and use a defibrillator to shock his heart into working again.
“Whilst he got the chance to live, my son didn’t.”
Since Guy’s death, his parents and friends have campaigned to raise awareness of the importance of basic first aid when someone collapses with heart failure.
The defibrillator idea came from Guy’s father, Crispin Evans, when the parish council bought the phone box from BT for £1 and were asking for ideas on what to do with it.
The parish council also donated £1,000 to the cause, with villagers raising the remaining £1,500 need to buy and fit the Public Access Defibrillator (PAD).
Mrs Chesney-Evans, of Long Wittenham, said: “With heart defects and problems, the first few minutes are the most important.
“And as Long Wittenham is more than 10 minutes from the nearest ambulance station, this could be the difference between life and death.”
The phone box is now being refurbished and will be officially unveiled at celebrations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June.
To access the locked defibrillator, users must input a code which can be accessed by phoning 999 or from several first responders in the village.
There are plans to teach children in the local school life-saving first aid and it is hoped the idea could catch on in other communities.
Mr Evans said: “I know Guy would be thrilled to think the box was going to be used in this way to help others. We miss him dreadfully, but we’re determined to carry on campaigning for some good to come out of our loss.”
* Fundraising was carried out by Heartbeats, a charity set up by Guy’s family and friends in his memory. They hope to raise £7,000 to offer heart screening to local children. For more information visit heartbeatscharity.co.uk